It just got tougher for Somali-American immigrants in Seattle send money to family back home. KUOW’s Liz Jones reports.
All major banks in the U.S. have stopped handling money transfers to Somalia out of concerns about terrorism.
As a workaround, many Somalis had started routing money through Kenya.
But now Kenya has also shut down these Somali-operated transfer services.
This comes in response to the al-Shabaab terrorist attack on a university in Kenya last week. Al-Shabaab is a Somali group affiliated with al Qaeda.
Seattle has the third-largest Somali community in the country. Many here help support relatives back home.
Abdul Yusuf: “I used to send $300 every month to my grandmother and those who take care of her. I don’t know how they will survive without it.”
Omar Abdulalim: “My wife is Somali. We send her aunt money every month. She’s taking care of 12 children. So for this to be cut off, you know, there’s a possibility that they could die.”
They spoke at a recent community meeting in Seattle about these money transfers, or remittances.
Aid organizations working in Somalia also depend on these transfer services.
Scott Paul is a senior policy adviser with the international humanitarian group Oxfam.
Scott: “You know we use these companies to pay our partners and pay our staff. And we’re looking at a fairly significant disruption to our own programs inside the country.”
Every year, Somalis living abroad send about $1.3 billion to relatives back home. It's estimated one out of every three Somali families depends on this money for food, school fees and health care.